Finally, Formula One is back! This is the moment we have all been waiting for since the end of pre-season testing in Barcelona last month. This season sees three rookies; Jolyon Palmer, Rio Haryanto and Pascal Wehrlein making their debuts this weekend.
With a brand new season and brand new tyre rules, tyre management and choice will be important this season and could spring a few surprises over the course of the season.
The Albert Park Circuit utilizes everyday sections of road that circle Albert Park Lake, a small man-made lake just south of the central business district of Melbourne. The temporary street course is 5.3 kilometers long. With a total of 16 corners with 10 right turns and 6 left turns; the direction is clockwise and the engines are running about 65 percent of the lap at full throttle.
The highest speed on the circuit is at the end of the start/finish straight with speeds over 300 km/h. The track offers few genuine overtaking opportunities, except if the driver ahead makes a mistake.
The track is fairly demanding and tricky for the drivers as it is quite fast and also contains many challenging corners. The secret of a good lap time depends not on peak power, but on good torque to help launch the car out of the slow corners that connect the succession of straights. Compared to other races that are held on public roads, the track has quite a smooth surface but there is no grip at all to start with. There are also a lot of road markings which reduce grip even further. Grip improves throughout the weekend as more rubber is laid down.
Albert Park Circuit is only used for the Australian Grand Prix, there are no other motorsport meetings there during the year. Each year, the much of the trackside fencing, grandstands, pedestriance overpasses, and other motorsport infrastructure are erected from approximately four weeks prior to the race weekend and removed within two weeks after the event. Melbourne has hosted the Australian Grand Prix since 1996 and the contract runs until 2023.
The race weekend begins now….
Practices 1, 2 and 3
The main headline from the Practice sessions is Mercedes look to have the driver-car package to beat this weekend as weather conditions and tyre management which will test the drivers, teams and the cars throughout Friday and Saturday practice sessions.
Practice 1 saw Lewis Hamilton tops the timesheet with a time of 1.29.725 followed closely by Daniil Kvyat with a gap of 0.421 seconds behind, Daniel Ricciardo was in third with a gap of 1.150 seconds behind, Nico Hulkenberg in fourth with a gap of 1.600 seconds behind and Max Verstappen in fifth with a gap of 1.995 seconds behind Hamilton.
Nico Rosberg is sixth with a gap of 2.089 seconds behind, Fernando Alonso is seventh with a gap of 3.335 seconds behind, Jenson Button is eighth with a gap of 3.404 seconds behind, Sergio Perez is ninth with a gap of 3.645 seconds behind and Kevin Magnussen is tenth with a gap of 4.335 seconds behind Hamilton.
During FP1, we saw spots of rain hit the session with made Max Verstappen spin and also Daniel Ricciardo at the end of the session spinning after losing the rear end of his Red Bull due to driver error.
Practice 2 saw Hamilton tops the timesheet with a time of 1.38.841 followed closely by Hulkenberg with a gap of 0.467 seconds behind, Raikkonen was in third with a gap of 0.645 seconds behind, Ricciardo in fourth with a gap of 0.694 seconds behind and Sainz Jr in fifth with a gap of 0.853 seconds behind Hamilton.
Alonso is sixth with a gap of 1.054 seconds behind, Button is seventh with a gap of 1.167 seconds behind, Vettel is eighth with a gap of 1.920 seconds behind, Perez is ninth with a gap of 2.415 seconds behind and Kvyat is tenth with a gap of 3.750 seconds behind Hamilton.
Just after 30 minutes into the FP2 session, Nico Rosberg lost control of his Mercedes going through Turns 7 and 8 and hit the barriers which then forced his front wing to come off and be stuck under the car. Rosberg tried to get back to the pits but his team on the radio told to “….Stop and pull over.”
Practice 3 saw Hamilton tops the timesheet with a time of 1.25.624 followed closely by Rosberg with a gap of 0.176 seconds behind, Vettel was in third with a gap of 0.228 seconds behind, Sainz Jr in fourth with a gap of 0.633 seconds behind and Raikkonen in fifth with a gap of 0.811 seconds behind Hamilton.
Verstappen is sixth with a gap of 1.077 seconds behind, Bottas is seventh with a gap of 1.106 seconds behind, Ricciardo is eighth with a gap of 1.144 seconds behind, Massa is ninth with a gap of 1.527 seconds behind and Perez is tenth with a gap of 1.618 seconds behind Hamilton.
You would be stupid not to bet against the Mercedes drivers of Hamilton and Rosberg to gain pole position again this weekend. As the Mercedes drivers seem to be performing brilliantly at the moment and the momentum is with them from all the track mileage and their strong form from the last race. Ricciardo, Kvyat, Sainz Jr, Vettel, Raikkonen and even Bottas or Massa also cannot be discounted for the pole also as they are consistently within the top ten places at the moment.
However, I think that Toro Rosso and Force India have shown that they could throw themselves into the mix and could qualify well here to be in the hunt for some decent points this weekend. We all look forward to the qualifying session of the Grand Prix with excitement…